And then, impossibly, Rodriguez got better. At 22, he had a
40-homer, 40-stolen base season and was probably the best player
in the league again (the MVP went back to Gonzalez but this time
it didn’t directly affect A-Rod — he finished a distant ninth in
the voting). Two years later, Rodriguez added 100 walks to his
superior shortstop defense, high average, big power — he was
again probably the best player in the league. He finished a
distant third in the MVP voting to Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas,
a couple of sluggers who didn’t even pretend to play defense.
The lack of respect — the lack of love — obviously rankled him.
At free-agency time, Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras made it clear
that they had every intention of shaking up the world, every
desire to let America know that this Alex Rodriguez guy was not a
great player, he was THE great player, the consummate player, the
ideal player, better than anyone.
And they signed a deal with Texas that dropped jaws all over the
country. Through the years, baseball players have set records with
big deals, but this one was on a whole other level. Even now, 15
years later, A-Rod’s 10-year, $252 million deal in 2001 ranks as
the third-largest in baseball history. And one of the two deals
ahead of it was the one A-Rod himself signed later as an extension
with the Yankees.
A-Rod was the second-best hitter I’ve watched in my lifetime. The best, of course, was Barry Bonds, whose name is also inextricably linked to PEDs.